The Hispanic culture plays a dominant role in determining the approach to medical care and delivery, as well as the communication of symptoms and prognosis. Good communication skills are the key, as culture, more than any other factor, will determine the best approach to the type, delivery, and communication of a patient's medical needs.
As an American nurse practicing in a US setting, I have accepted the science, ethics, and traditions of American medicine. While I believe that spirituality and religion play an important role in promoting good health, they are separate from the healing process that comes from medicine. The spiritual aspect of healing is similar to the support of family and friends, and its benefit is derived from the psychological support that it provides to us. However, science is the foundation of modern medicine and understanding the science is the critical factor in assessing a patient and administering a treatment program. While I do not dismiss herbal renedies and traditional treatments out of hand, I do require a thorough scientific study to verify that the process will obtain the desired results. A proper diet and exercise are two aspects of natural medicine that have been repeatedly proven to improve our health. Yet, while I believe that modern medicine is a rather calculated science, I also understand the abstract influences of humor, confidence, self-esteem, and motivation in the healing process. In essence, medicine is a very personal factor in ones well-being. Advancements in drugs, genetics, and electronics all contribute to a more beneficial outcome from medicine. I believe that these are the foundations that have improved the prognosis of the Americans that are in need of health care today.
Culture begins to impact medical care from the first moment the patient is asked to describe their illness and relate their symptoms. Ethnic background and culture will play a part in the ability of the health care worker to create an open forum of communication with the patient, and gain important self reporting from the patient. According to Barakzai, Gregory, and Fraser (2007), "Beliefs and norms within a culture affect decisions about which phenomena are considered to be signs and symptoms of illness" (pp. 265-266). In addition, language differences can be a significant barrier to good communication. While an English speaking American may be able to relate detailed feelings and symptoms, Latinos rely heavily on the Spanish language and poor communication skills are one of the biggest obstacles to providing effective assessment and treatment among the Latino population (Antshel, 2002, p. 439). It is recommended to have a Spanish speaking health care professional when possible, and it is imperative to have written instructions available in Spanish (Antshel, 2002, p. 439). It should be noted that poor communication is not restricted to foreign language barriers. A recent study revealed that "only about 20 percent of adult Americans have the ability to read, understand and act on health care information", and many misunderstand the routine medical terms of "colon, bowel, rectum, screening, blood in the stool, tumor and polyp" (Dent, 2000). The confusing culture of medical communication is made even more complicated when it